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Prostate. 2013 Oct;73(14):1538-46. doi: 10.1002/pros.22703. Epub 2013 Jul 1.

Tumor necrosis factor alpha increases aerobic glycolysis and reduces oxidative metabolism in prostate epithelial cells.

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Department of Health, Exercise and Sports Science, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.



Chronic inflammation promotes prostate cancer formation and progression. Furthermore, alterations in energy metabolism are a hallmark of prostate cancer cells. However, the actions of inflammatory factors on the energy metabolism of prostate epithelial cells have not been previously investigated. This is the first study to report on the effect of the inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) on the glycolytic and oxidative metabolism, and the mitochondrial function of widely used prostate epithelial cells.


Pre-malignant RWPE-1 and cancerous LNCaP and PC-3 cells were treated with low-dose TNFα. Glycolytic and oxidative metabolism was quantified by measuring extracellular acidification and oxygen consumption rates, respectively. ATP content and lactate export were measured by luminescence and fluorescence, respectively. Mitochondrial content and the expression of glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor co-activator 1 alpha (PGC-1α), and Cytochrome C were measured by flow cytometry.


Our data suggest that TNFα increases glycolysis, ATP production, and lactate export, while it reduces oxidative metabolism and mitochondrial function in prostate epithelial cells. The highly aggressive PC-3 cells tend to be less responsive to the actions of TNFα than the pre-malignant RWPE-1 and the non-aggressive LNCaP cells.


Cellular energetics, that is, glycolytic and oxidative metabolism is significantly influenced by low-level inflammation in prostate epithelial cells. In widely used prostate epithelial cell models, the micro-environmental inflammatory cytokine TNFα induces aerobic glycolysis while inhibiting oxidative metabolism. This supports the hypothesis that low-level inflammation can induce Warburg metabolism in prostate epithelial cells, which may promote cancer formation and progression.


glycolytic metabolism; inflammation; mitochondrial function; oxidative metabolism; prostate epithelial cell models; tumor necrosis factor alpha

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